Second Sunday in Lent (Year A)
Scripture Readings*: Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17; Psalm 121
Both Jews and Christians believe that by His call to this one individual God set in motion a series of acts of grace and judgment which would fashion a special people for Him, who would lead a lost mankind back to their true home. As Christians, we belong to that special people. And with our Jewish brethren, we also look back to Abraham as father of the faithful.
If he had not answered that call, Israel would not have reached her Promised Land, the Church we love would not exist, there would be no Scriptures for us to study, and our lives would be emptied of everything that makes them worthwhile.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Paul stresses that Abraham was justified by faith, not works (vv. 1-8), and he was justified by grace, not Law (vv. 9-17). If salvation depended upon our abilities, we would all be hopelessly lost.
Thankfully, God keeps His promise to those who believe (trust in God), and mercifully and generously offers us His grace.
The fact that Jesus did perform miracles was beyond dispute. This brought a Pharisee named Nicodemus to question Jesus (3:1–2). Jesus stunned Nicodemus by saying that before any spiritual questions can be dealt with a man must be “born again” (v. 3). Even though the concept of a spiritual rebirth has roots in the Old Testament, Nicodemus was totally confused (vv. 4–9). Jesus challenges Nicodemus to accept Christ’s testimony (vv. 10–15) and goes on to explain the awesome cost to God of making eternal life available to humankind (vv. 16–17).
Today’s readings are all about comfort zones – specifically, getting out of them! At times God uproots us, just as He did Abram. Get out! Leave your family and friends! Take a journey to a new place you have yet to discover. Sometimes we can identify with Nicodemus, when everything we think we know is turned upside down by the Word of God. And always, we find ourselves in the vulnerable position of relying on faith and the grace of God. We want to “pay our way” and “earn our keep.” But salvation cannot be bought or earned. Instead, we must trust that, in spite of our weakness and flaws, an all-powerful God loved us enough to redeem us.
In each situation, we are stretched. We become uncomfortable. God asks us to move beyond what we know and function outside of our comfort zone. This is the opportunity of Lent – and it’s the result of our faith being deepened and refined.
Prayer for Second Sunday in Lent – God of grace, as You call me to follow You in new ways, give me a steadfast faith to hold tightly to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A